KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. Steve Stricker was almost too busy thinking about the Ryder Cup Saturday to realize he improved his chances of winning the 94th PGA Championship. Almost.
(Photograph by Getty Images)
"Yeah, it is on my mind," Stricker said of his push to earn one of the eight automatic berths on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, a two-year process that ends with the conclusion of the PGA at the Ocean Course. If he fell short on points, he could still make the team as one of four wild-card picks of U.S. captain Davis Love III.
Stricker, 45, of Madison, Wis., certainly helped his cause either way with a solid five-under-par 67 that lifted him 30 spots into T-7 before severe weather caused a delay in the championship at 4:50 p.m. EDT.
Stricker owned the low round of the day alone until fellow American Bo Van Pelt equaled it about 90 minutes later. Van Pelt was in the house at T-5 with 3-under 213 total.
"My goal was to get back to even, and I did even a little better than that," said Stricker, who is coming off a T-2 at last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. "It kind of gets me back in it. It all depends on what happens this afternoon."
Well, nothing happened in the afternoon, not to any conclusion with the nasty weather moving in. Stricker left the grounds knowing only that he was in the hunt for his first major title and his fourth Ryder Cup team. Guess which one was weighing on his mind more.
"If I don't make it on points, there's still time for other guys to play well. I don't want to leave anything to chance," said Stricker, 10th in the U.S. standings. "I want to keep playing well so that Davis has a legitimate reason to pick me and not just because of what I've done in the past."
At the time he also was three off the lead.
"Well, there's that, too," Stricker said, smiling. "It's one big day playing for two things. But I really can't be thinking about that tomorrow. I just have to think about playing as well as I can and everything takes care of itself.
"I've had a great run on these teams. It's been a blast."
Seldom does Stricker, one of the game's best putters, miss enough putts to lament ones that got away, and the 26 putts he had Saturday seemed like a reasonable performance to go with hitting 12 fairways and 13 greens in regulation. But the 12-time PGA Tour winner knew he'd let a startlingly low number get away.
"I'm hitting it as good as I ever have, and now my putter is letting me down a little bit," he said. "If I can get that going ... today I had a bunch of opportunities it could have been 6-7-8 under pretty easily, that's how good I hit it."
In last year's PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, he opened with a 63 before finishing T-12. Since turning 40, he has been one of America's best players, rising as high as No. 2 in the world rankings. With Tiger Woods faltering early Saturday -- he was three over through seven holes -- Stricker and Van Pelt were the low Americans on the leader board.
"Yeah, it's been 6 or 7 years of good, solid play. It's been a lot of fun, and I think I can keep it going," Stricker said.